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With a legacy that requires no introduction, the Leica m2 is a legendary 35mm film rangefinder camera that's excellent design is only surpassed by the enjoyment its simplicit design and function precipitates.
This camera made our Top 5 Film Cameras for Travel (under construction), and it's no wonder. It's a joy to use, fairly compact, reliable, completely mechanical, and has the potential to produce wonderful images. For this reason, I've been wanting to do a Leica m2 review for awhile now.
Since there's a plethora of lenses with varying quality that you can use for this body, I don't intend this article to be an image quality discussion, but rather a user-experience expose. I also do not intend to give a technical/spec analysis or synopsis as there are a hoard of articles which already cover this.
However, my experience is singular in that there is only one of me, and only one of my experiences. Well, unless we get into multi-verse theories. But all that aside, here we go!
My Experience with the Leica M2
When I first held my m2, the metal build and weight were immediately noticeable. Upon first use, the fully mechanical operation was almost like meditation.
Still, to this day, the loading, winding, and operation of this camera gives me a sense of "zen"--like a purposeful and enjoyable slowing down. It's not a slowing down that creates rush , boredom, or malaise. It's a engaging with the camera that entertains the senses and stablizes the thoughts during the photographic experience. I dig this.
I really enjoy the ability to use this camera for candids without attracting undue attention. When using my larger cameras, whether it's our Canon cameras or our medium format film cameras, heads turn. This isn't desirable because I want candids to stay just that...candids.
To me, style isn't everything. But, with that said, it feels good to carry this camera. It's classy, attractive, and feels like a piece of art. It's just "feels good" to carry. When writing my Leica m2 review I wanted to mention this because I noticed over time that the m2 tends to go places with me, almost constantly. Although I didn't previously put a lot of emphasis on "feel", I think that's one subconsvious factor that the m2 always ends up in my hands.
Before I bought an m2, I heard people say things like "it just feels good to shoot a Leica". I considered this pure poppycock, as I was most concerned about flexing specs. And honestly, the Leica is not a spec monster (thought some of the lenses are pretty bad-A).
Once I bought my Leica, I soon learned how inconsequential "specs" are when it comes to leisure shooting. Now, if I'm going out and want to bring a camera as a tag-along to take some great photographs, the m2 is at the top of my list. I owned a Fuji X-Pro 2 at one point, and loved it for the same reason. But, today, I no longer own the X-Pro 2, and still own (and shutter at the thought of selling) my m2.
I'm currently using the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Nokton Classic MC with my Leica. To see my full review on the Voigtlander 35mm 1.4 Nokton click here.
What It's Not That Great For
I noticed very quickly that the m2 was a not user friendly for shooting directly backlit. It becomes very difficult to focus because you can't make out the image in the rangefinder. Now, this isn't a deal breaker for me since I can, you know, just not shoot with direct sun. Side-backlit still gives me a nice hairlight while allowing me to focus.
Loading and unloading film quickly
Now, I don't have the m2-R, which inludes the rapid loading system of the m4. But, I can load and unload fast enough for the purposes for which I use my m2.
Word to the Wise
Watch out--if you leave this camera pointed at the sun for any amount of time, it will burn a hole in your curtain. I learned by experience. I'm actually not sure that I didn't receive m2 with this problem, which then possible got worse with use. For my ego's sake, I'd like to believe that's the case.
Anyhow, I fixed this pinhole light leak from the holes the sun had burned in the m2's curtain with some Liquid Tape by brushing over the holes. It's been fine for over a year now since the fix!
Final Words on the Leica M2
The Leica m2 is not only a legendary, but a fun and enjoyable camera with loads of character. Though it's not a spec-monster, it's a joy to use and can create some amazing on-the-go imagery.